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A little bit of help

Learn about Katherine’s remarkable story of resistance to create safety for her five children with the support of her DCJ caseworker Clarinda.

Katherine, mother

I hit my lowest point when I was homeless and sleeping in my car. I wasn’t safe. Even worse, my five kids weren’t either. But I never gave up. I was determined to get them back and not let anyone hurt them again. I hope my story helps other people get the support they need.

It all started with my ex-partner, who was violent towards me. He controlled me, abused me, and wouldn’t let me have friends or money. He would tell me I wasn’t good enough. He threatened to call DCJ to take my kids away if I left him. I was terrified and trapped.

I didn’t know where to go for help. I became depressed and wasn’t able to care for my children the way I wanted. That’s when my mum and dad started looking after them. It was also when things went from bad to worse. My parents hurt my children with their mean words and harsh punishments, just like they did me when I was little. It was like my nightmare starting all over again.

I tried everything to get people to listen. I told police and DCJ that my kids were in danger but no one believed me. Instead I was told I couldn’t stay in the same home as them. I felt like my intellectual disability was used against me. People kept saying I was making up stories. Heightened. But if your kids were taken away from you, wouldn’t you be upset?

After years of only seeing my kids once a week I was desperate. That is when our caseworker Clarinda came into our lives – she created a path of hope to bring my family home to me. Clarinda took the time to learn about me. She understood that I sometimes struggle to get my message across or follow conversations. She changed her way of talking for me.

kids
Clarinda explains things a few times and repeats back to me what I’ve said, to check that she has understood me. She doesn’t cut me off halfway through what I want to say. For the first time ever I felt heard.
the family

I slowly opened up to Clarinda about what life was like for my kids living with their grandparents. She always says, ‘Katherine, thank you for telling me’, even when I share hard things. If I’m worried or have questions I know I can call Clarinda and she reassures me I’m doing a good job or suggests a new approach. It can be daunting when DCJ is in your life, but Clarinda always makes me safe enough to trust her and be honest.

Clarinda recognised all the work I had already done to be the best mum I could be. I had completed parenting courses, and counselling was helping me to deal with the ongoing trauma from being abused by my ex. Even better, Clarinda listened to my kids. She gave them the gift of time and advocated for their rights.

I will always be grateful that Clarinda fought hard for us to get a house and it happened right before Christmas, can you believe it?! I don’t even have the words to explain how it felt to have my kids with me – just us. It was the first time I was made to feel like I was their mother and that I could do it on my own.

I love having my family together. The kids play with our pet dogs, jump on the trampoline and build Lego – we all love doing that. The ones who have their own special needs are getting extra help. I think I’m really good at helping them too, because I know what it’s like to need understanding and extra patience.

Clarinda never judges me on my disability, but rather on my love for my kids and my capacity to be a mum. I think people with a disability need their rights protected even more than other people.

I’m studying community services at TAFE and want to advocate for other people in my situation. The first thing I will ask is how I can help them. It’s a good place to start – we all need a little bit of help sometimes.

My kids absolutely adore Clarinda. They ask her why she doesn’t come around as much anymore. Clarinda tells them, ‘Because mummy doesn’t need me like she used to’. I know I’m going to miss Clarinda a lot, but she is right – I can do this.

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Last updated: 14 Dec 2020